A.D. Amorosi, For The Inquirer
Monday, June 1, 2015, 1:08 AM
It must be outrageous fun being Aaron Freeman. As Gene Ween, Bucks County's Freeman was one-half of the avant-garde, alt-rock Ween, with Mickey Melchiondo, who ran by the name of Dean Ween. Together, they aped CW, '70s RB, and more through their own satirical, creepy-guy filter. Freeman surprisingly dropped that partnership, nearly 28 years since its start, for a sober life and soberer musical forms under his real name. First he covered Rod McKuen (2012's Marvelous Clouds), then his own sweetly elegiac songs on 2014's Freeman. Still, you can't keep a good Ween down, or away from occasional weirdness, which is why Freeman - as Gene Ween - fronted a six-piece Billy Joel cover band with onetime Philly pal/bassist Paul "School of Rock" Green at a packed Underground Arts on Friday.
Philly fans of the Piano Man can catch their hero at Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 13. But "Gene Ween Does Billy Joel" went beyond being just the next best thing. Yes, these were note- and nuance-filled renditions of what Ween called "just the hits." Aggressive tracks like "Pressure" and "Sometimes a Fantasy" used the same pumping, dated synth sounds as in Joel's recordings (cheesy then, but for some strange reason coolly kitsch now). The saxophones of Ween's take on the zigzagging "Moving Out (Anthony's Song)" and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" had exactly the breathiness and bouncy-ness, in the same exact spots, as Joel's album cuts.
The Ween version of the slashing "Big Shot" used the guitar trick - the bent-whammy-bar "beehrrrerer" toward the song's close - as in Joel's 1978 hit. The introductory piano of 1973's "The Ballad of Billy the Kid" was there again in 2015.
The crowd ate up both sides of the Gene/Joel equation. Each arrangement and musician was crackling and accurate and never sounded rote. Ween seemed giddy doing Joel songs. This article is from wwwphilly.comThe vocalist chewed through Joel's vocal inflections while retaining his own flair (those distinctions were blurred from the start). He relished such lines as "It just may be a lunatic you're looking for" during "You May Be Right," and he savored each measure of ballads such as the all-but-misogynistic "She's Always a Woman." Ween did such a great job curating Joel songs that you almost wish Joel would curate some Ween tunes in August.